Why Donor Milk?

At the Mother’s Milk Cooperative, we understand the extremely positive impact that donor breast milk can have on neonatal health, especially among premature infants when mother's own breast milk is not available.

In instances where infants cannot be breastfed, the World Health Organization recommends donor milk as one ideal substitute.[1]

Benefits of Donor Milk

  • It greatly reduces the likelihood of life-threating illnesses in premature infants such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), sepsis, bacterial meningitis, and bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD). It also reduces the chances of ear infections and related complications.[2] 

  • It contains antibodies and nutrients NOT FOUND in formula derived from cow’s milk. These unique components help strengthen the immune system of premature infants, thereby allowing them to better fight infection and disease. [3]


Donor Milk Saves Lives, But It’s Scarce!

  • There is a critical shortage in donor milk. Many premature infants that would benefit from donor milk are unable to access it because there’s simply not enough![4]

  • Donor milk is prohibitively costly, which prevents many families from accessing it.[5]


What is the MMC Doing About These Problems?

  • Increasing awareness about milk donation and participation among nursing mothers to increase the volume of donor milk available AND reduce its cost. 

  • Offering compensation to nursing mothers for their time and efforts through the Milk Money program is fair and increases the donor milk supply. 

  • Offering Pay it Forward milk to families with extreme financial circumstances. While increasing supply can bring donor milk prices down, Pay It Forward is an additional effort to reach every baby in need, no matter her family’s financial circumstance.

Economists Julie Smith and Robert Forrester write, “It is rarely acknowledged that exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months may have high economic time costs for women, although such costs have important implications for the effectiveness of health policies and programs promoting breastfeeding.”[6] 


The Mother’s Milk Cooperative recognizes these costs, and aims to increase breastfeeding rates and donor milk supply by rightly alleviating some resource constraints that breast feeding moms and their families face.

 Why is a Milk Bank Best?

There are many reasons why obtaining donor milk through a licensed milk bank is important. Milk banks are regulated on a Federal level by the FDA, and on a state level as Tissue Banks. Milk banks must comply with guidelines set forth by these regulatory bodies that enforce safety and quality.

The Mother's Milk Coop Milk Bank requires extensive screening before approving an applicant to become a milk donor, but the safety measures don't stop there. Every drop of each shipment of milk is tested for safety and quality and screened for adulterants before being processed for clinical use. Safety of the donor milk is paramount for the recipients of the donor milk who are often critically ill and/or premature babies in the NICU.


[1] World Health Organization, "The World Health Organization's Infant Feeding Recommendation", http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/infantfeeding_recommendation/en/.

[2] Herman, K and K. Carroll. (March 2014). An Exclusively Human Milk Diet Reduces Necrotizing Enterocolitis. Breastfeeding Medicine, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24588561.

[3] Bhatia, J. (2013). Human Milk and the Premature Infant. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 62.3, 8-14 http://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/351537; Heiman, H. & RJ Schanler. (December 2006). Benefits of Maternal and Donor Human Milk for Premature Infants. Early Human Development. 82(12), 781–7 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17055672.

[4] Underwood, MA. (February 2013). Human Milk for the Premature Infant. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 60.1, 189-207. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23178065.

[5] Arnold, L. (2006). The Ethics of Donor Human Milk Banking. Breastfeeding Medicine. 1.1, 3-13.

[6] Smith, J.P and R. Forrester. (July 2013). “Who Pays for Health Benefits of Exclusive Breastfeeding? An Analysis of Maternal Time Costs.” Journal of Human Lactation. 29.4, 548.